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Barack Obama has done his first TikTok and the Reading of his Book live is blowing up the app

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The Book and now the Man are minting TikTok  Memes all night long

Using the hook line “Take this and pass it on” Barack Obama appeared in his first bonafide TikTok and, while handing his new book “A Promised Land” to someone Offscreen, he lays the tagline down.

This, if you are familiar with TikTok nomenclature and virality is an invitation to add your own video, where for example you “receive” the book he is handing off, creating the illusion that you had it handed to you by the former president, known as a Duet. 

These are already being produced and many variation will be coming soon. In the meantime an organic meme has already taken hold – one of people reading passages from his book aloud, unboxing their very own copy, speaking to the camera with a loving, adoring review, showing off Barack and Michelle’s books side by side, proposals to start a bookclub with “A Promised Land” as the first title, Crying with joy as they listen to the audio-book version, repost of the audio, A Trump impersonator reading (and insulting) in Obama’s voice, A slide-show with a famous Obama speech as an audio track, and many, many more. 

Although this first TikTok from the former President was posted to the Publisher Penguin’s account, there’s a lot of hope, an audacious amount of hope you could say, that Obama will create his own personal account and become a regular or at lease occasional TikTok creator.  


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Best Under-the-radar Books from Our Research

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Above:Photo Credit / Olivier Chatel on Unsplash

Sometimes, lost in all the hype and hoopla are gems that just don’t quite make it into the forefront of the mainstream. We make it our mission to keep our eyes open and be on the hunt for just those kinds of gems. Perhaps it’s an idea, or a thread of meaning, or maybe just something that is boiling under the surface about to explode like a geyser in Yellowstone Park.

Here are a few books, and the idea of a physical book itself is also one of those overlooked genius things that seems to slip past us everyday, and these are just the kind that only the eagle-eyed may have noticed previously. To make it easier they are featured front and center, below, along with descriptions, provided courtesy of the Bookshop, and some links for a variety of options to purchase.

Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe

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From preeminent math personality and author of The Joy of x, a brilliant and endlessly appealing explanation of calculus–how it works and why it makes our lives immeasurably better.

Without calculus, we wouldn’t have cell phones, TV, GPS, or ultrasound. We wouldn’t have unraveled DNA or discovered Neptune or figured out how to put 5,000 songs in your pocket.

Though many of us were scared away from this essential, engrossing subject in high school and college, Steven Strogatz’s brilliantly creative, down-to-earth history shows that calculus is not about complexity; it’s about simplicity. It harnesses an unreal number–infinity–to tackle real-world problems, breaking them down into easier ones and then reassembling the answers into solutions that feel miraculous.

Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age

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Antitrust enforcement is one of the most pressing issues facing America today–and Amy Klobuchar, the widely respected senior senator from Minnesota, is leading the charge. This fascinating history of the antitrust movement shows us what led to the present moment and offers achievable solutions to prevent monopolies, promote business competition, and encourage innovation.

In a world where Google reportedly controls 90 percent of the search engine market and Big Pharma’s drug price hikes impact healthcare accessibility, monopolies can hurt consumers and cause marketplace stagnation. Klobuchar–the much-admired former candidate for president of the United States–argues for swift, sweeping reform in economic, legislative, social welfare, and human rights policies, and describes plans, ideas, and legislative proposals designed to strengthen antitrust laws and antitrust enforcement.

Klobuchar writes of the historic and current fights against monopolies in America, from Standard Oil and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to the Progressive Era’s trust-busters; from the breakup of Ma Bell (formerly the world’s biggest company and largest private telephone system) to the pricing monopoly of Big Pharma and the future of the giant tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

She begins with the Gilded Age (1870s-1900), when builders of fortunes and rapacious robber barons such as J. P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt were reaping vast fortunes as industrialization swept across the American landscape, with the rich getting vastly richer and the poor, poorer.

She discusses President Theodore Roosevelt, who, during the Progressive Era (1890s-1920), busted the trusts, breaking up monopolies; the Clayton Act of 1914; the Federal Trade Commission Act of 1914; and the Celler-Kefauver Act of 1950, which it strengthened the Clayton Act. She explores today’s Big Pharma and its price-gouging; and tech, television, content, and agriculture communities and how a marketplace with few players, or one in which one company dominates distribution, can hurt consumer prices and stifle innovation.

The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age

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From the man who coined the term net neutrality, author of The Master Switch and The Attention Merchants, comes a warning about the dangers of excessive corporate and industrial concentration for our economic and political future.

We live in an age of extreme corporate concentration, in which global industries are controlled by just a few giant firms — big banks, big pharma, and big tech, just to name a few.

But concern over what Louis Brandeis called the curse of bigness can no longer remain the province of specialist lawyers and economists, for it has spilled over into policy and politics, even threatening democracy itself. History suggests that tolerance of inequality and failing to control excessive corporate power may prompt the rise of populism, nationalism, extremist politicians, and fascist regimes.

In short, as Wu warns, we are in grave danger of repeating the signature errors of the twentieth century. In The Curse of Bigness, Columbia professor Tim Wu tells of how figures like Brandeis and Theodore Roosevelt first confronted the democratic threats posed by the great trusts of the Gilded Age–but the lessons of the Progressive Era were forgotten in the last 40 years. He calls for recovering the lost tenets of the trustbusting age as part of a broader revival of American progressive ideas as we confront the fallout of persistent and extreme economic inequality.

Silent Spring (50th Anniversary Edition)

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The classic that launched the environmental movement

Rarely does a single book alter the course of history, but Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did exactly that.

The outrcrythat followed its publication in 1962 forced the banning of DDT and spurred the revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.

Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement.

This is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century. The introduction, by the acclaimed biographer Linda Lear, tells the story of Carson’s courageous defense of her truths in the face of a ruthless assault form the chemical industry following the publication of Silent Spring and before her untimely death.

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In: ‘Antitrust: Taking on Monopoly Power from the Gilded Age to the Digital Age’, Amy Klobuchar Takes on World’s Greatest Challenge

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Is the title above wrong? Depends who you ask…

In her new book, Klobuchar tries to connect the historical roots of antitrust actions to populism and her own ancestry. That’s not all, however. Although difficult, particularly for readers who are not legal scholars, there’s an important and deeper historic thread here that she is aiming to contribute to.

That job is to find a way to illuminate how the digital age, with all its challenges and complexities, can come to terms with the simple question of how to measure damage that is being done by big tech monopolies, through sheer size, power and lack of external accountability.

Moreover, there is an issue of how antitrust law and practice veered away from the remedies and goals, first established during the Gilded Age, toward a laissez-fair, anti-regulatory stance that gained steam in the Regan years.

That shift is, in many ways, to blame for the current extreme state characterized by dangerous levels of concentrated wealth and power by big tech.

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This effort may seem like one that is doomed to being ignored by all but the already long-since converted. But, make no mistake, it is a topic that will grow, reverberate and become more relevant as the current administration in Washington consolidates and comes into its own.

“People have just gotten beaten down. I wanted to show the public and elected officials that you’re not the first kids on the block with this. What do you think it was like back when trusts literally controlled everyone on the Supreme Court, or literally elected members of the Senate before they were elected by the public?”

— Amy Klobuchar, in Wired interview with Steven Levey

When President Biden recently nominated Lina M. Khan to the Federal Trade Commission, in addition to Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu, who announced earlier this month he would join the National Economic Council, he set forth a clear path for an antitrust direction that has the potential to be more than just rhetoric and window dressing.

Khan is an unequivocal proponent of a new era of antitrust, one that is, not coincidentally, along the lines of what Klobuchar advocates. Likely sharing these ultra clear views from her long and celebrated research, Khan, along with Wu, is a key addition to Biden’s growing roster of Big Tech critics, and there is already a blueprint for actions and cases that will build to a crescendo over the next several years.

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Biden’s call for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, meanwhile, a hotly contested and possibly flawed legal shield some feel is exploited by Internet platforms, is another indicator of the tenor of the coming actions.

In a sense, with this bestselling book [on Amazon: #1 in Political Economy, #1 in Government Management, #1 in Business Law (Books)] the gargantuan task of connecting the culpability of massive, nearly infinitely powerful behemoths, each in it’s own territory, to the social and economic catastrophes that they’ve brought down on the world.

However, while politicians like Klobuchar may not have the charisma and energy to set a fire under the population, it is the very deeds themselves that will eventually conspire to ignite an uprising and put pressure on the government and the courts to take real, substantive measures. And with young, new faces and minds such as possessed by Khan and Wu, ultimately there is a bulwark of criticism against monopolist abuses building in government and among the public at large.

“I am never saying, ‘Get rid of their products.’ But let’s have more of the products that give you more choices. You can keep one product, but it’s better to have other products, because we’re not China.”

Amy Klobuchar in Wired interview with Steven Levey

 In response to Klobuchar’s quote above Steven Levey in Wired wrote; “In other words, Facebook could keep it’s main app, but the public might benefit if Instagram and WhatsApp were not Mark Zuckerberg productions.” 

While this kind of “moderate” view may not be the earth shattering remedy that would turn the juggernauts around in a heartbeat, from Zuckerberg’s perspective it would not be ideal, to say the least.

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And, since we have seen the unfettered and viral growth of big tech, for at least a quarter century in some cases, and since there was a aura of hero worship afforded their leaders for most of that time, a break-up, such as that could ultimately turn out to be the beginning of more sweeping changes. A welcome outcome for those that have been harmed the various monopolistic structures that rule nearly all our lives, or at least it seems, at times.

War of Giants

Levey then asked Klobuchar why legislators so often embarrass themselves in hearings with irrelevant partisanship, clueless technical questions, and time-wasting grandstanding. Her response;

“Welcome to my life,” she says. “I get it—there’s going to be hearings that are irritating to people who know a lot. But that’s a great argument for tech to use because they don’t want this oversight.” 

Amy Klobuchar in Wired interview with Steven Levey

In defense of using the word “antitrust in the title, while also advocating its eradication in future she responded:

 “Well, I thought antitrust was an interesting word”. “It’s not only about this body of law; it’s also about not trusting anyone.”

Amy Klobuchar in Wired interview with Steven Levey

Perhaps it is more the course of history that led to the current and incredibly extreme situation and obscene dominance by big tech that is what should never have be trusted to arise in the first place.

Perhaps these firms will one day be seen, looking back from future generations, as a temporarily necessary, but evil mistake of history, as was the toothless interpretation of laws that led to their rise from “scrappy underdog startups” into malignant monopolies run amok.

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Meghan Markle debuts first children’s book ‘The Bench’

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The bonds between fathers and sons, as seen through the eye of their mothers

The inspiration for the Duchess of Sussex’s first book started from a poem Megan wrote for Prince Harry after their son Archie was born for Father’s day. The poem then evolved into a story, the book will capture the special bond and relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life, as described by mothers.

As news relating to the upcoming release of Markle’s debut book, reports began to surface speculating potential plagiarism with another children’s book “The Boy on the Bench” by Corrinne Averiss. The only real similarity between the two titles is they both have the word “bench”, aside from this, Averiss took to Twitter to defend the Duchess stating “I don’t see any similarities”.

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“The Bench” includes illustrations by Christian Robinson, a Caldecott Award winner, who has worked with both Pixar and Sesame Street Workshop. Markle and Robinson worked together to make sure the final product was inclusive and shared a universal message every kind of family could relate to.

In a statement from Random House Children’s Books, Markle said “Christian layered in beautiful and ethereal watercolor illustrations that capture the warmth, joy, and comfort of the relationship between fathers and sons from all walks of life,” and continued to say “This representation was particularly important to me, and Christian and I worked closely to depict this special bond through an inclusive lens.

My hope is that The Bench resonates with every family, no matter the makeup, as much as it does with mine.”

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The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, already holds so many titles: she is a wife, a mother, feminist, activist, and now will be adding author to her list of accomplishments.

“The Bench” will mark the latest venture for the Duchess after stepping back from the Royal Family and moving to the United States in 2020. Prince Harry and Meghan have also launched a podcast in partnership with Spotify Archewell Audio. The two also have plans to work on a Netflix documentary based on the Invictus Games which the Prince founded back in 2014.

The book, along with the audiobook (Markle as narrator) is currently available for pre-order and will we be available for purchase starting June 8, 2021.

Photo Credit /Courtesy of Random House Kids

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Peterson Guides make Perfect Companions for Bird and Animal Watching

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Above:Photo Credit / Amee Fairbank Brown / Unsplash

With spring now finally in full swing and pretty much all of us looking forward to getting out of our winter caves, taking to the wilds, in whatever part of the country we are in. Hiking while bird and animal watching can be an incredible treat to add more to the pleasure of the outdoors. Rather than relying on our trusty smart phones and a voice assistant or google search, why not go the tried and true route using a vinyl reinforced guide book with the photos and information right at your fingertips? If you do this right there won’t be cellular data reception anyway! Peterson just happens to have a fantastic assortment of guides for just this purpose, so, no matter what part of the US you find yourself in, or which species or category of living creature you expect to encounter check out the guides people as a perfect companion for your journey!

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 6th Edition

Guide to birds of eastern and central north america guides a unique identification system, which has been called the greatest invention since binoculars.

This guide is illustrated with drawings and photographs in color and black and white and all provide up to date range information and the most useful descriptions, pinpoints key field marks for quick recognition and easy comparison of species. 

This guide will feature updated text and range maps, and art updated to reflect current knowledge in ornithology. This is the most popular book for the area of the US that has the absolute highest number and greatest diversity of bird watching opportunities.

Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Western North America

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A comprehensive field guide that uses an innovative Sound Index to allow readers to quickly identify unfamiliar songs and calls of birds in western North America.

Bird songs and calls are at least as important as visual field marks in identifying birds. Yet short of memorizing each bird’s repertoire, it’s difficult to sort through them all. Now, with the western edition of this groundbreaking book, it’s possible to visually distinguish bird sounds and identify birds using a field-guide format. 

At the core of this guide is the spectrogram, a visual graph of sound. With a brief introduction to five key aspects–speed, repetition, pauses, pitch pattern, and tone quality–readers can translate what they hear into visual recognition, without any musical training or auditory memorization.

Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America

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This fourth edition has been completely rewritten, with all-new range maps and illustrations for all species

A Field Guide to Mammals of North America The most comprehensive, in-depth, and current guide to North American mammals, this book covers all the mammals found in North America north of Mexico, including those that live in near-shore waters.

The only guide to include paintings and photographs of the animals as well as photographs of mammal skulls, it has 80 color plates, plus 46 additional color illustrations and black-and-white drawings, nearly 400 range maps, and more than 100 color photographs.

With global warming on the horizon it’s more important than ever to learn about and appreciate the incredible mammals that exist on our planet.

A Peterson Field Guide to Insects: America North of Mexico

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Detailed descriptions of insect orders, families, and many individual species are illustrated with 1,200 drawings and 142 superb color paintings.

Illustrations – which use the unique Peterson Identification System to distinguish one insect from another – include size lines to show the actual length of each insect.

A helpful glossary explains the technical terms of insect anatomy.

Donald J. Borror has worked as a professor of entomology at Ohio State University. With Dwight M. DeLong, he is coauthor of An Introduction to the Study of Insects, a widely used textbook. Dr. Borror recorded The Songs of Insects, one of the Sounds of Nature disks in the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology series, with Richard D. Alexander. 

Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America

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A completely updated edition, including 122 newly recognized or recently established non-native species of reptiles and amphibians.The new edition of this definitive guide reflects 25 years’ worth of changes in our knowledge of reptiles and amphibians.

It includes descriptions of 122 newly recognized or recently established non-native species, updated maps, and new figures and photos. Color illustrations and drawings show key details for accurate identification. More than 100 color photographs and 322 color distribution maps accompany the species descriptions.

Clear and concise species accounts provide key characteristics, similar species, habitats, and ranges, as well as subspecies, voice descriptions, and conservation status. This edition will be a crucial resource for professional and amateur herpetologists, naturalists, outdoor enthusiasts, and students.

Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, Second Edition

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There are nearly 1,000 species of freshwater fishes in North America alone, and identifying them can sometimes be a daunting task. In fact, in just the twenty years since publication of the first edition of the Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes, the number of species has risen by almost 150, including 19 marine invaders and 16 newly established nonnative species.

This second edition incorporates all of these new species, plus all-new maps and a collection of new and revised plates. Some of the species can be told apart only by minute differences in coloration or shape, and these beautifully illustrated plates reveal exactly how to distinguish each species. 

The guide includes detailed maps and information showing where to locate each species of fish–whether that species can be found in miles-long stretches of river or small pools that cover only dozens of square feet. The ichthyologic world of the twenty-first century is not the same as it was in the twentieth, and this brand-new edition of the definitive field guide to freshwater fishes reflects these many changes.

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